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Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Perfect Cycling Day

"I can not endure to waste anything so precious
as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
Nathaniel Hawthorne

The weather prediction is such that no true cyclist could resist going for a ride, a long leisurely ride, the kind where you begin to soak up the color and warmth to hold close during the coming dark and cold months.  Yes, it is to be a tad on the windy side, but other than that the sun is to shine and the temperatures are perfect.  It would be an absolute sin and a shame to waste such a day doing housework or the myriad other chores that really need to be completed before winter. There is a slight chill, a hint of the coming fall, in the morning that can be easily managed with a vest and light arm warmers that will be shed later.  And today I am alone.  I briefly debate the 60 mile club ride, but decide against it with no regret. 

I decide to head toward Story as I have been wanting to test some modifications to my original route.  Sometimes it is hard to find those roads that I love to ride, the scenic ones with little traffic.  And this route has more state road on it than I normally like.  They are not particularly busy state roads, and they are mostly scenic, but still I prefer to haunt those back, meandering roads.  There are times, however, when the roads just aren't there.

I am mostly satisfied with the first half of the route.  It takes awhile to get off the main road, but once I do, the roads are lightly traveled.  I come across a fawn who freezes as he sees me, his white spots just faintly visible as he becomes a youngster rather than a babe. He edges the bordering forest, uncertain as to his best move.  Should he freeze and hope I don't see him or run? He does not move as I ride by and our eyes meet briefly. I tell him he must be afraid of me for his own good for hunting season approaches.  Being so young and so small still, I would not think he would be much of a target, but what do I know of hunting?  I have friends who are hunters, but it never appealed to me.  My husband used to talk about bow hunting and killing a deer.  He said that after he looked in its eyes as it died, he was never able to  hunt again.   I think of his gentleness and how it was hidden under such a stern, frightening exterior presence at times. Oh, I miss him so and I suppose I always will. How glad I am that I bypassed the surface and saw what was underneath.  As they say, there is more to a book than its cover.  I think of how these quiet solitary rides, so misunderstood by others, allow me to see things and think about things in a way I would not if I had company.

The first store stop is in Freetown.  I think of how I wish I had written down the history of the town that an old man was kind enough to share with me when I stopped there once in the past.  Sometimes I think I should carry pen and paper with me.  So many things happen on rides, and my memory is not as it once was. In college, I would wake up able to recite certain parts of the text I had been reading verbatim, but anymore I am lucky to remember why I left the couch to go to the kitchen. The town, per this man, originally had another name, a name that escapes me, but was made to change it as there was already a town in the state with that name.  My memory betrays me.  I laugh about it because there is nothing I can do about it, but I don't like it.  Sometimes it scares me.  

While I am at the first store stop, sitting at the picnic table studying a map because of an expected detour, a group of cyclists pull in.  I still am not quite sure why they stop as I did not notice any of them going into the store, but perhaps they did and I did not notice.  They are from Columbus and they are going down the road to another small town: Cortland.  I tell them I don't know if it is still there, but there was a little country store that had the best homemade pumpkin bread.  I remember sharing a small loaf with Grasshopper on a ride years back, the smell of the bread rich and savory, the slant of sun resting on our shoulders as we ate content in each other's company in the way that good friends are.  We had been to Surprise earlier, but surprise, there was not even a pop machine.  I briefly think of first meeting Grasshopper, of how he, like so many of my friends, had to initiate and almost insist on friendship. I suppose that, like Woody Allen, I sometimes wonder who would want to belong to a club that had me as a member.  And I suspect we all feel that way at times.  I miss seeing him, but I understand that riding was no longer for him.  I am glad he has found someone to renew his smile. 

They tell me the store still is there and now the specialty is Peanut Butter pie.  We are heading in the same direction, though I will turn off before reaching Cortland, but they are not quite ready to leave when I take off. I think that they will probably catch me as they are a group and will be drafting, but they do not. I am not going particularly fast, but I don't loiter as I know there is a detour and I don't know how I might have to modify my route to get home or if I will have to modify it.  Despite the fact it still stays light fairly late, I want to leave myself a cushion.  I have not yet put the light on my bike that stays there all winter for those "just in case" rides.

I come across the Shields covered bridge and stop to photograph the work that has been accomplished.  Nearby, a farmer has made the last cutting of hay and the day has warmed enough that the smell wafts through the air and I wonder if it is the last time I will smell that smell this year.  I even come across a field where corn is being brought in.  Other corn fields are still a bright green: nowhere near harvest.  As the wind picks up, I notice the rustling noise through the corn, a fall sound. At Waymansville, at least I think that is the name, the store remains closed and it saddens me.  Everything changes,  and I am changing.    I wonder if it is visible to others, this change in me, or if I am deluding myself and have not changed at all.  Like the bridge, I assume my structure will remain basically the same, reinforced by life events.

I eat outside of Story in the horse place, but I do stop briefly at Story.  There is music and I briefly wish I had someone who I could sit with and share a glass of wine or two with, but I waste little time on fancy knowing the detour remains ahead.  I find that while the road is closed, the bridge is completed and nobody is working so I am able to cross with no detour.  I take a side road trying to find how to get off the main road and  wonder if I will miss the big climb on the main road only to encounter a hill that makes the other seem mild, a wonderful, cursed, terrible, magnificent hill.  Still recovering from a virus I had a couple of weeks ago and still rather weak, I drop it into granny and make my way, cursing, sweating, and grinning because this will be a good modification when I want a harder ride or to torture a riding companion.  A woman stops at the next intersection telling me she is a cyclist and asking if I need direction, and I thank her and send her on her way.

In the end, the change ends up adding a mile so I end up with a 104 mile total for the day.  I see so much beauty.  Everything is still green with just the faintest hint of the coming fall.   I am glad I did not spend the day doing the chores that need to be done, that I spent the day on my bike doing something I love.  It is not good to "waste anything so precious" as a perfect cycling day. 

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